Before the AR in its many forms became popular the mini 14 was THE ubiquitous semi-automatic rifle for law enforcement and civilian alike. Produced by Sturm, Ruger & Co. the mini 14 shares many of its features with earlier rifles like the M14 and the M1 carbine, in fact it is called the mini 14 because of its similarities with the M14. Today we will check out the best scope for mini 14.
Despite its similarities with these rifles it was actually released in 1973 along time after either of these rifles and a full 14 years after the AR-15 was originally designed by the ArmaLite Corporation. That fact doesn’t detract from the mini 14 though, in fact in many ways it was far more suitable for the civilian market in the 70’s than the AR with its militaristic appearance. In fact while the AR, as the M16 was adopted by the US military in 1964 it wasn’t used by law enforcement agencies until much later while the mini 14 was specifically produced in law enforcement configurations from the beginning of its production. It was made particularly famous by its prolific use in the original ‘A-team’ TV series.
While the mini 14 was produced for, and used by, law enforcement agencies the model we are interested in today is the ‘ranch’ model.
The Mini 14 ranch rifle is offered in a wood or synthetic rifle stock and either a blued or stainless steel receiver and barrel which comes as standard at 18.5 inches in length. It is a fairly compact rifle ideal for work around the ‘ranch’ as the name suggests but equally capable in a defensive or tactical role. The mini14 ranch comes with an adjustable ghost ring rear sight and winged front sight a feature which is sadly lacking on many rifles nowadays. The skill of shooting over open sights it diminishing amongst the shooting community and is a valuable skill to have and the best way to learn to shoot. They do of course also come with a detachable scope rail for fitting your optic of choice and while the open sights are a great feature you really wouldn’t be reaching this rifles full capability without a scope. The .223/5,56mm cartridge is capable out to 500 meters and while open sights will let you hit targets that far away a scope makes real precision possible.
The ranch rifle might not look like a direct competitor to the AR 15 but Bill Ruger himself is on record as suggesting that the mini 14 could have been a competitor for the AR 15 as the US military’s assault rifle given better timing. While the timing was definitely wrong, as has been previously mentioned the mini 14 came onto the scene fourteen years after the AR, there has been a lot of positive feedback on the modern mini 14 but it has also been subject to significant backlash during its history due to accuracy issues with earlier models and due to a controversial decision by the designer of the mini 14 and co-owner of the Ruger Sturm Co. Bill Ruger to support a ban for magazines of over 15 rounds in capacity.
In 1989 Bill Ruger sent a letter to United States Congress members advocating the banning of high capacity magazines, it included the following paragraph and caused a lot of bad feeling among the shooting community;
“The best way to address the firepower concern is therefore not to try to outlaw or license many millions of older and perfectly legitimate firearms (which would be a licensing effort of staggering proportions) but to prohibit the possession of high capacity magazines. By a simple, complete and unequivocal ban on large capacity magazines, all the difficulty of defining 'assault rifle' and 'semi-automatic rifles' is eliminated. The large capacity magazine itself, separate or attached to the firearm, becomes the prohibited item. A single amendment to Federal firearms laws could effectively implement these objectives.”
This might explain why the ruger mini 14 comes from the factory with a five round magazine but may also contribute to some very long lasting bad feeling against the ruger company even since Bill Rugers death in 2002. While there is a five round magazine for the mini 14 there are now also plenty of larger magazines including 20 round versions to make this rifle more competitive with the AR and similar more combat oriented rifles.
Whatever task you have in mind for your mini 14 the ranch model will be a good choice, it won’t give you the same performance as an AR in the tactical rifle role, or the same precision as the target version of the mini 14. The target version has been in production since 2007, without open sights and a permanent picatinny scope rail as well as other features for enhanced accuracy and precision including an upgraded stock and heavy barrel. This model of the mini 14 is specialised for use with a telescopic sight and would give you a little more accuracy than the basic ranch model as it has a longer, heavier barrel and is built for precision. While the ranch model won’t match this precision or compete with other rifles designed with precision in mind it will do an adequate job, in a much smaller more manoeuvrable package, and the epithet ‘jack of all trades master of none’ certainly applies to it.
In layman’s terms a semi-automatic rifle, like the mini-14, will fire a round as fast as you can pull the trigger. Also known as the ‘autoloading’ action a semi-automatic firearm will not only fire a round every time you pull the trigger but it will carry out all the steps required to make the weapon ready to fire again, at least for as long as there is ammunition in its magazine. The typical image of a semi-automatic firearm nowadays is of something like the AR15, a black, or camouflaged, militaristic firearm often adorned with the most up to date of gadgets and gismos. However, the Semi-automatic action is well over 100 years old.
The first successful auto loading action was developed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher in 1885, and by the early twentieth century semi-automatic firearms were no uncommon. Perhaps one of the most iconic was John Moses Browning’s Auto5 shotgun. As it’s name would suggest the Auto5 was released in 1905 and quickly became a classic. Semi-automatic rifles and pistols also became fairly common although it was longer before they were adopted by military forces than you might expect. The French introduced the Fusile Automatique Modele 1917 into their nation’s arsenal in 1917 but while it was used in relatively large numbers and successfully it did not replace the traditional bolt action firearms that remained the mainstay of military armament until 1937 when the United States replaced their bolt action Springfield 1906 service rifle with the M1 Garand.
This marked the first full scale adoption of semi-automatic rifles by any military force, although some semi-automatic pistols had been in use for many years. In some senses the M1 Garand is the ‘grandfather’ of the mini 14; after reports that the Garand was too heavy for support troops such as radio operators and mortar men, as well as the need to equip paratroopers with lighter weight weapons, a lighter weight rifle was developed. These weapons paved the way for a gradual, and eventually a complete shift to semi-automatic firearms for military personal all over the world and.
After NATO adopted the 7.62x51mm round most European countries adopted the FN FAL and the M14 replaced the Grand in US service in 1957, almost twenty years later the mini 14 was so named due to it’s similarities with the M14. As well as their obvious benefits for military applications these semi automatic firearms like AR’s and other similar rifles are great fun to shoot on the range as well as offering a significant advantage when controlling fast moving mammal pests or ones which form large groups such as hogs. A semi automatic rifle gives a considerable advantage in these situations.
Now that you know it’s history and a bit about it which scope should you choose for your mini 14 ranch?
- Which Scope Should You Choose
- Best General Purpose Scopes For Mini-14
- Top 5 Scopes For Mini-14 on the Market Reviews
- Best Optics for Défense
Which Scope Should You Choose
It's often impossible to pin down a single 'right' scope for a rifle based on it's calibre due to the versatility of some calibres but the mini-14 ranch has a particular niche. The name 'ranch' gives it away. It's aimed at use on the farm for varmints and general livestock protection duties. The fact that it is semi-auto and relatively compact makes it a fairly good defensive gun too which might be useful to protect cattle from rustlers.
So if we assume those two uses for this rifle; general varmint/small deer gun and defensive it narrows down the types of scope we are looking for.
The mini 14 ranch is not as accurate a platform as the AR or bolt action rifles so it wouldn’t be a great choice for longer range precision shooting. This rules out some of the more powerful 'varmint' scopes but a low to mid power scope would be ideal, or a more tactical option with longer eye relief and low magnification will be suitable for defensive use or shooting in scrub and brush. Although do be aware that the 5.56mm bullet is not heavy enough for the mini-14 to be even close to a true brush gun.
Best General Purpose Scopes For Mini-14
Dependant on model.
24- 56 dependant on model
Fibre Optic and Tritium illumination
4-16 in featured model but others are available
42 in featured model but others are available,
Dependant on model
Dependant on model
3-9 in featured model but others are available
3-9 in featured model but others are available
Top 5 Scopes For Mini-14 on the Market Reviews
1 Trijicon Accupoint
Trijocon are probably best known for their ACOG tactical optic but they also produce a range of excellent, high quality scopes. Using the same fibre optic technology that they are so famous for on the ACOG the acupoint range features an illuminated reticle and is available in a range of magnifications, reticle styles and objective lens sizes.
A Low power and small objective lens lends itself to quick target acquisition and would pair nicely with the lightweight, quick handling nature of the mini 14 but if you want a bit more magnification and light gathering ability larger models are available too. Any option would serve you well though and the ruggedness and reliability of Trijicon optics is second to none.
2 Vortex Diamondback 4-16x42
Vortex optics produce a massive range of excellent scopes, and there is not just one that would suit the mini 14, there are many scopes offered by Vortex that would be a perfect match. Some of their larger scopes aimed at target shooters wouldn’t really be suitable as they would just add too much weight and bulk to the lightweight, fast handling mini 14 and would far outcalass its ability to shoot at range. Some of the leighter weight Vortex offerings would be a perfect choice.
Something like this Diamondback model would be ideal. Offering a 42mm objective lens and a few reticle options, I would recommend the V-plex, as this variable power scope features a second focal plane reticle making the value of mil dots and other reticle subtensions variable at range and therefore less useful. The V-plex though is a great general-purpose reticle, which would be perfect for use around the ranch with the mini-14.
3 Nikkon Buckmaster II
I have always been impressed with Nikon Optics, they represent fantastic value for money, great quality and come with a good warranty for peace of mind. They are not expensive and probably wouldn’t compete with some of the higher end scopes by manufacturers such as Leupold but putting one on your mini-14 would be a very good choice.
This particular model features a dead hold reticle, while I am warry of reticles wich feature multiple subtensions in the second focal place the design of this specific reticle is very practical and useful. The hollow aim points are very useable and intuitive and it’s a shame that more scopes don’t feature this style of reticle. Konus are a brand which use these hollow aim points quite effectively and this really makes a difference in variable power scopes.
4 Leupold I VX-Freedom
A list of ‘best scopes’ would be incomplete without something by Leupold. I have been using Leupold optics for well over a decade and have taken many deer as well as shooting at extended ranges. This model will serve you well on your mini-14. It features a duplex reticle which does not add any unnecessary subtensions and which isn’t de-valued by a second focal plane arrangement.
This streamlined scope won’t add unnecessary bulk or weight to your rifle and is very rugged and well built. The illuminated reticle makes getting a decent sight picture in dim or even bright conditions where a reticle can easily be overpowered by bright sunlight and reflections.
5 Burris Fullfield
Burris have a great reputation as hunting scopes and also produce the XTR II a fantastical tactical/long range tool. The Fullfield series would be the ideal scope for using your mini-14 on the ranch. It gives enough magnification for almost all conceivable hunting and vermin control applications and a decent level of light gathering ability.
With a Burris scope you also get to benefit from their fantastic build quality and warranty.
Best Optics for Défense
1 or 3 when combined with magnifier
1 Trijicon ACOG 4x32
As far as tactical optics go trijicon and Eotech lead the way. Their ACOG sight is the perfect compliment to your rifle if you have it in mind for defensive purposes. It is rugged bordering n indestructible, just ask anyone who’s been in theatre with the military. Whether you choose to mount a reflex sight on yours like the one in the picture or not is up to you but this does add a degree of versatility for very close range shooting.
The Trijicon ACOG isn’t cheap and they retail at around $1000 perhaps making them pricy to fit onto the affordable min-14 but it is very robust and will outperform most of the competition. Bear in mind though that this optic, as with a few of the others to follow in the category feature integral picatinny mounts so you will need to fit a picatinny rail to your mini-14 if you plan on using these.
3 Aimpoint T2 Micro
Aimpoint have a fantastic pedigree as a manufacturer of weapon optics, their first red dot sight hit the market back in 1974, coincidentally just a year after the mini-14.
This tiny optic is light weight but very robust. The illuminated red dot and long eye relief is designed for ‘both eyes open’ fast action shooting of the kind that might be expected in a defensive scenario whether you are shooting vermin in defence of your livestock and crops or are in a situation where you need to protect your own life.
4 Steiner 5201 P3TR P4Xi
This scope might seem quite similar to the Trijicon featured amongst the general shooting list but this was designed specifically with military and law enforcement in mind. Steiner have a fantastic reputation and this scope will be very reliable and rugged, serving well on top of your mini 14. Not all tactical optics have to be of the reflex design, there are plenty of tactical applications for scopes and this will give you a bit more precision that a reflex sight but still allow you to shoot with both eyes open and draw a bead on your target quickly.
5 TAC Vector Optics Apophis
A super compact optic which not only features the slim, compact lines of the trijicon accupoint and steiner offerings but combines that with tactical turrets, BDC reticles to suit .223 and .308 calibres and a budget price.
I like the traditional optics and would prefer them over a reflex sight on a mini-14, My pick would be the Trijicon Accupoint, I have a lot of experience with that scope and I like it’s suitability for both eyes open shooting and the fact it is so rugged. However I am very impressed by TAC Vector, less so by their mounts and accessories, but I have been testing one on my .300 blackout recently and am very impressed so for a budget option that would be a good pick too. Ultimately any of these optics will serve you well though, so get out there and use them.